author: anonymous ally of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland
I’ll never forget my first hug from a patient. We were at discharge, and I had been her nurse throughout her three-day procedure. I had just watched her labor. I watched her essentially crawl through our hallways, trying to endure and understand a pain she had never experienced before.
This young girl, with the eager eyes and calm disposition had to travel multiple states for the procedure, because she couldn’t receive the care that she needed in her home state. She was with her mom, and as they were leaving, she stood up and hugged me tight. They both hugged me. They thanked me for taking care of them, and for making such a difficult week, slightly easier. They thanked me for not shaming them, or casting judgement and negativity. It was in that moment that I realized the true impact I had on her and her life. I knew that this was what real nursing felt like, to have pride in the care you have given and pride in the impact on the patient, regardless of the procedure or circumstance.
I’m a nurse in an abortion clinic.
I have been debating writing this for months. With my budding career, and the polarizing nature of abortion on my mind, I’ve held off — until now. I’ve come to realize that the longer I work in abortion, the more I understand the deep need to support and destigmatize it, for all reasons, at all gestations, for all people.
I’m here to support the woman getting her fifth or sixth abortion, who already has a horde of children to support at home. The fifteen-year-old who wants to become a surgeon, is trying to balance high school, as well as the one-year old child she already has. The woman who has never had any kind of gynecological exam, and an abortion is her first experience with a speculum. The couple who desperately want and need to become parents, but whose child has a neurologic abnormality, and won’t survive outside of the womb. I’m here to support everyone and anyone who feels that an abortion is in their best interest.
Each person deserves a chance to take control over their lives, and I’m privileged to be able to give them that chance.
I’ve driven patients back to their hotels, because they didn’t have enough money to cover both the procedure, and a taxi back. I’ve wiped the tears of my patients, as well as my own. I’ve watched people receive memory boxes of the baby they wanted so incredibly badly. I’ve listened to rape victims, who were impregnated by their rapists, tell me their stories of accidentally ending up in fake abortion clinics, otherwise known as crisis pregnancy centers, and paying thousands of dollars, only to be lied to, heavily shamed and denied an abortion.
It wasn’t easy at first, I almost fainted my first day in a procedure. Sometimes, I would drive the hour home and call my nursing friends to talk to them, to have them tell me I was doing something that was worthy of my tears and stress. I’ve never liked puke, but now it’s a matter of who can whip out the blue vomit bag from their pocket first. I’m learning and growing, as a nurse and a human, and want to educate others about the reality of abortion and abortion clinics.
The decision to be an abortion clinic nurse was not necessarily conventional. It is something I am still nervous to tell people, fearing a harsh and retaliatory reaction. It is something I only recently put on my resume, fearing consequences in the career field.
I have to consider my safety, as well as the safety of my colleagues and patients.
There are people out there who would go to extreme lengths to stop our practice, or to physically harm us, as they have in other clinics in the United States.
This all seems like it’s a lot about me, but I wouldn’t have anything to write about if it weren’t for my patients. Many choose to stay silent about their experiences because of the negativity enveloping the taboo word “abortion.” Some could be denied housing, fired from their jobs or shunned by their families if they were honest about their experiences. Some don’t even believe in abortion themselves but saw no other option. Nothing breaks my heart more than someone showing up to the clinic completely alone, because they couldn’t tell the people in their lives who are supposed to support them.
They are the people who go experience the pain, make the choices, fight the post-sedation nausea, nod along through the endless lectures about what to expect and when to call us for help, and the feel the spectrum of emotion that accompanies an abortion. But they are also the people who were privileged enough to have the opportunity to make a choice, a privilege not afforded to every person in this country.
Now this young girl with the eager eyes wouldn’t have to stay up all night with a screaming infant, while also trying to balance high school. It meant she could return to cheer leading practice in a couple of days and look forward to a future where she wasn’t burdened with a child she wasn’t prepared for. When I looked at her, I saw my younger sister, and I want my sister to have that choice. I want every single person I know to have that choice.
Because behind each abortion, is a human.
There is a couple, a student, a mother, a daughter, a child or teenager, someone who is desperately trying to create a life they want to live. We need to work to normalize abortion, to take the decision-making out of the hands of people who do not understand the gravity of the decision and only can understand it from a political perspective, permeated with false propaganda and penises.
It isn’t too late to join the fight for freedom of choice.
Ask about abortion, learn about abortion, understand it and appreciate it. By doing so, you’re helping to make it more accessible for others and you’re helping to destigmatize abortion, making it a less shameful experience.
I will be thankful for and appreciative of the experiences I have had working in an abortion clinic for the rest of my career and my life. I’ve learned lessons about life, empathy, grief, empowerment and resilience. Thank you to my patients for allowing me to have a glimpse into their strength and will power.